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  • Tara Rethore

Time to Step Up or Step Back?

Did you make any personal New Year's resolutions? Lose weight, see more friends, travel, learn to love beets...? How about resolutions for your business? While they may not be done in honor of turning the calendar, we make business resolutions (also known as "objectives") all the time.


The good news is that those who have explicit objectives – even when they fail to keep them – are 10% more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t set objectives at all. Yet sometimes, our list of objectives (or personal resolutions) is so long that it becomes overwhelming. We can't get started - or are afraid to stop moving.


If you’re facing the New Year with a lot to accomplish, consider whether it’s time to step up or step back. a: objectives). If you’re facing the New Year with a lot to accomplish, consider whether it’s time to step up or step back.


Having too many objectives can quickly lead to demotivation to accomplish any of them. When the list is overwhelming, often without priority, some people shut down. Instead of asking "where do we start?", inertia sets in and we step off: "If I'm never going to succeed with these, why start at all?"

“Step up!” our management team demands.

Increasing the intensity and activity to make something larger, faster, or more effective seems to be the best solution to inertia. It makes sense when deadlines loom, we’re launching a new initiative or growing massively, or we have an opportunity to super-please a customer.


Yet, this can also be a trap.


Maintaining that level of focus and intensity for an extended period is draining. Pushing forward relentlessly, with head down and blinders on can be disastrous for business. It leaves little time for anything else, particularly anticipating changes and scanning the horizon as part of actively managing your strategy.

Instead, step back. Deliberately.

Even as you step up to manage today’s many objectives, take a moment also to consider your future business. Try to do just two things:

  1. Maintain an idea journal – Keep it nearby. Carry it with you. Jot down your ideas and the things that you are pondering at any moment. Use sticky notes and paste them on your whiteboard. Just take a few moments to capture the ideas or thoughts without worrying about whether they make sense, have value, or are the most important thing. That gives you a starting point and a way to ensure you are not losing these ideas along the way. This is not about eloquence; it’s more of a butterfly net to catch the things passing through your brain before they float away.

  2. Test ideas or float a variety of trial balloons – Toss out a few ideas at the water cooler and gauge your colleague’s reactions. It doesn’t mean you will/will not pursue the ideas, but sometimes it’s useful to get an unguarded view of what you are thinking about. Or, they help to spark new ideas. (Then jot them down!)

Stepping back implies slowing down or moving away from something. Yet doing so also creates space. And space – that room to breathe, think, or simply listen to ourselves – can be powerful for business. Space is where insight happens and innovation begins, resulting in objectives that are thoughtful, achievable and successful.

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